Occupy’s #m12 march was out of touch and alienating
12 May, and the sun beams beautifully across London’s favourite landmarks as it rises for another day under conservative austerity. It’s a political state that many of us never asked for, or particularly want to rise to. But its reality is one that hits hard for the faceless nomads that hide round London’s street corners, shivering in the brisk cold of spring air and sucking each breath as if it was their last. These are the faces that wake to a world that’s left them homeless, perhaps by choice, but not because they ever wanted to. And that experience of the lifelessness, the dead beat tone of street living is one that I experienced in my weeks at Occupy.
As a movement, its fresh faced approach to activism, inspired by the ideas of the Arab Spring, and facilitated by the Occupy Wall St movement – made it a conversation topic for every Londoner, regardless of their view. And while an early morning eviction left the camp decimated in early January, the message of ‘the 99%’ was an idea that would live on past the camp’s existence. So, there we were on 12 May, standing on the steps that three months ago were our homes, ready to form Occupy 2.0. Or at least, that’s what many were expecting.
The march was lively, and jittered round street corners with a sense of pride glowing from familiar faces. But the police seemed just as lively, keen to close any unexpected actions with a velocity many of the crowd seemed to find terrifying.
As the march worked its way down New Holborn Circus, towards the Barbican, Ahmed, an economics graduate from the Midlands got caught up in the demonstration. Finding himself being rescued from a police headlock by a friendly activist I thought I’d catch up with him to try and get a few comments about his experience:
“Half the people here seem to have a message, but the others just seem lost. I still don’t really know what they’re standing for,” he told me.
Ahmed’s words are what I’ve heard from many outsiders looking in at the Occupy movement. Its ‘99%’ ideology is just not one that stands up when you see the faces out marching. The #m12 demonstration was, it’s fair to say, no more than a few hundred anonymous and black bloc radicals, awkwardly marching alongside individuals who’ve become enlightened to the cause by social networks and Twitter. And it’s no wonder many of the faces were terrified by the sight of TSG units and bully vans racing up behind them.
The problem is, the average person doesn’t want to face a criminal conviction for standing up to their political rights. Spending their Saturday locked inside a kettle of anarchists isn’t what I’d call the most desired of afternoons. These people want a movement they can put minimum effort into, and it’s why internet activism (spread through Twitter, and Facebook) has taken off so rapidly in the last year.
Occupy will forever hold a place in my heart; my experiences there opened an entirely new mindset for me, but for those who are new to the idea of political engagement, a demo like Occupy’s #m12 isn’t a good starting point.
Ahmed reaction to his brief involvement is unsurprising:
“They’ve ruined my day,” he says to me, almost angered by the five minutes he spent as part of it.
And you know what; I’m starting to get a little pissed off with Occupy, and its lack of understanding too. So, next time an invitation to take action finds its way into my inbox, the battle to leave that breakfast bagel and cuppa I could be enjoying otherwise is going to be an even harder decision.
So, do I support the face of a movement I know is flawed, or do I just leave it to preach to the converted?Tagged in: #m12, #occupymybagel, anarchist, anonymous, arab spring, Barbican, black block, Holborn, HOMELESS, london, Occupy London Stock Exchange, occupy#, OLSX, protest
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